Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A to Z

There is a long history of books that attempt to capture the artist in the studio. Starting with Alexander Liberman’s The Artist in his studio via Anthony Armstrong Jones’s Private View with tributaries including our Contemporary New Zealand Painters A-M – you can read the N-Z list here. To sneak a peek into these private places paradoxically intended for the creation of public imagery, spaces designed to both show-off and conceal, is always fascinating. By now just about every country must have a version of the Lieberman original. We’ve seen an Australian one, or maybe two, and Eamonn McCabe (photographs) and Michael McNay’s Artists and their studios must be one of many UK efforts. Since magazines started taking an interest in artists and how they lived books like these have lost much of their old immediacy. But it’s still fun checking out what’s in the background, guessing at the dates of the early work stacked against the wall, studying exactly how the materials are arranged, and seeing the books, postcards and notes important enough to be kept close. Having said that, McCabe and McNay’s version is a pretty bland example of the genre. McCabe gets in too close editing out the mess and detail; he revels but forgets to reveal. Still, if you have a streak of the voyeur in you, books like Artists and their studios always have charm.
Images: Bottom Bridget Reilly, who also appeared in the Armstrong Jones book also gets a couple of pages in the McCabe, McNay effort.